Greek premiere of Nureyev’s enduring choreography

In what could best be described as a treat for ballet lovers, the English National Ballet will present legendary dancer and choreographer Rudolf Nureyev’s 1977 choreography of Sergei Prokofiev’s «Romeo and Juliet» at the Herod Atticus Theater over the weekend and on Monday. Nureyev’s take on the tragic love story, which has never before been performed in Greece, probes deeply into the characters, namely Romeo’s bursting desire for Juliet and Juliet’s tender sensitivity. Rather demanding on the principal dancers, the choreography remains true to William Shakespeare’s story and has developed into a timeless classic. The sets and costumes, designed by Ezio Frigerio, reflect the atmosphere of 13th and 14th century Verona, while the ballet will also feature live music by the ERT Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Martin West. The ballet is a joint production by the Athens Festival, the American-Hellenic Arts Center of Halandri and the American Community Schools of Athens (ACS) and features principal dancers Simone Clarke and Daria Klimentova, Yat-Sen Chang and Dmitri Gruzdyev, who will alternate as Juliet and Romeo, respectively. Different choreographies of Prokofiev’s magnificent ballet have been staged in Athens throughout the years, including Angelin Preljocaj’s haunting avant-garde choreography which blended Prokofiev’s music with electronic sounds, performed by the Lyon Opera Ballet in the early ’90s. It will be a Greek first for Nureyev’s choreography, however, which Matz Skoog, the English National Ballet’s artistic director, described as a «milestone» in the company’s history at yesterday’s press conference. «It was the first time that a ballet of that magnitude was created for the company,» said Skoog, who added that it led to a long productive relationship between Nureyev and the company, which was then known as the London Festival Ballet. «I think Nureyev’s interpretation is the best take on the story. He sat down with three different versions: French, Russian and the original English and went deep into the text,» said Skoog, explaining how Nureyev was keen to base his choreography on the story and to explore the characters. Skoog pointed out that the production will be virtually identical to the original. «It has not been changed at all. It was noted down in its early stages, was well-recorded and carefully preserved.» Moreover, two of the dancers from the 1977 production, Patricia Ruanne, who danced the part of Juliet, and Frederic Jahn, in the role of Tybalt, are coaching the dancers, therefore there is a direct link with the original cast. Both Skoog and the company’s managing director, Craig Hasall, expressed their excitement at performing at the stunning ancient venue, echoing the feelings of the dancers as well, some of whom have danced at the Herod Atticus Theater in the past. Skoog added that the theater’s particular features have been incorporated into the set and that the arches, for instance, will be used for entrances and exits. Expressing the American Embassy’s support for what he described as a «major cultural event,» American Ambassador Charles Ries said that culture is what brings people together and that art, especially dance, breaks down the language barriers. A photography exhibition on Nureyev will be on display outside the theater. The ballet will be staged at the Herod Atticus Theater on Dionysiou Areopagitou St tomorrow, Sunday and Monday at 8.30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Hellenic Festival box office (39 Panepistimiou, tel 210.928.2900) and the theater box office.